Source: Wanderley Massafelli/RollingNews.ie
THE NATIONAL TRANSPORT Authority (NTA) receives about 1,000 complaints about taxis every year.
As of the end of November, the NTA had received 1,018 complaints (up from 898 complaints in the same period last year). It received 998 complaints for the whole of 2016 and 928 in 2015.
The most common complaints received about taxis were about driver behaviour, fare matters, hiring matters and vehicle condition.
Many of the complaints received to the end of October were not proceeded with as the complainant didn’t reply (32%), while a further 18% resulted in advice being given to the driver.
Below is a sample of some of the complaints members of the public made this year.
‘I am absolutely disgusted’
One complaint read: “I queued up at the airport taxi rank last Tuesday to get a taxi from the airport to where I work. When it was finally my turn, I told the taxi man where I wanted to go. He replied, ‘This is just my morning isn’t it’ and rolled his eyes. I thought he was joking at first so I kind of smiled and then I realised he wasn’t.
“He was genuinely really angry at me and I could see his temper flaring up towards me. I told him that there was no need to be so rude and he didn’t apologise, he just ignored me.
“As I was getting a taxi on my own, I felt intimidated by a man cursing at me when I just wanted to get a taxi to work and pay my fare. Granted, it wasn’t a far journey but I would have paid more if I was travelling further and I can’t help where I work.
I paid my fare and I am absolutely disgusted that I was made feel like that in a regulated taxi. It was an extremely uncomfortable journey. I don’t think men like him should be driving taxis.
“I didn’t feel safe and I have no choice but to report him. If he doesn’t want to take hard-working, taxpayers’ money then he probably shouldn’t be driving regulated taxis.”
Outcome: Based on the available evidence, the driver was issued with advice regarding his duties and responsibilities as a public service driver.
In another complaint, a person wrote: “The driver was abusive. I am willing to bring action against the driver for verbally inappropriate language.
“Please review the driver’s microphone. I have a video recording of his abuse and if I do not receive a reply I will go to the gardaí.”
Outcome: The complainant was contacted and asked for additional information including the video recording. The NTA could not take any further action as the complainant did not respond.
Driving off without giving change
In a different case, someone wrote: “I am emailing you as a very angry and disappointed person.”
The complainant said they got a taxi in the College Green area of Dublin city at around 3am on a particular date. The person explained to the driver that they had no money but would pay him when they arrived at their house. The driver is said to have agreed to this.
The complaint said: “When we arrived at our destination I left the car to get my money. I ran back out to pay him. I handed him €50 and he very quickly and dangerously drove off. My two friends were also in the taxi and witnessed this crime.”
The person, who didn’t catch the registration number of the vehicle, said the incident had left them “very stressed” and “very upset”.
I am a full-time student and don’t have much money. I need all your assistance to solve this matter very quickly. I expect you will be able to help me.
Outcome: When contacted, the complainant said he had reported the incident to An Garda Síochána.
‘The car smelled like a zoo’
In one complaint a person said the seatbelts in a particular taxi didn’t work.
“I literally could not get the seat belt to plug in properly. Clearly not safe and not good enough from a PSV (public service vehicle),” they wrote.
Outcome: The vehicle was inspected and the seatbelts were operational and functioning. Speaking about this case, the NTA said: “This vehicle in question is one where the left and right seatbelts will fit – but do not lock in the centre seatbelt clasp. Only the centre seatbelt will lock in the centre seatbelt clasp.”
In another instance, the complainant said the taxi in question “smells like a zoo”. The licence holder was contacted and instructed to book the vehicle in for a suitability inspection. The vehicle passed the inspection.
Separately, a cyclist complained about a taxi that was being driven in front of them “bellowing out black fumes”, saying: “This car should not be on the road.” When the NTA contacted the driver, they had already made repairs to an engine fault so no further action was taken.
‘The driver took a significant detour’
The NTA received a number of complaints about drivers allegedly overcharging passengers or failing to turn on their meter.
In one instance, a person wrote: “We took the taxi from the airport to our place of residence. The driver asked us if we had been there before. We said that we hadn’t.
The driver then, unbeknownst to us, took a significant detour to get us to our destination. My partner … recorded the driver’s licence number and we asked for a receipt.
“When we arrived, our host family told us that we should have, at most, paid about €25. Instead we paid €43.”
Outcome: The NTA said the driver was interviewed and he made a full admission and sincerely apologised, citing “poor judgement on his part”. He offered to fully refund the fare. A written caution was issued to the driver.
In a separate case, a person who said they regularly take a taxi from a rank to a certain B&B accused the driver of overcharging them.
They wrote: “I can’t remember the proper fare … but I’m sure it’s WAY LESS than six euros, think the proper fare is even less than five euros. Recently, a driver took a wrong turn on this same journey and did about an extra mile and it came to only €5.40 (he did not charge me for his mistake).
“A driver took me on Sunday (yesterday) on this same journey for less than six euros. In this case I was charged six euros. I am 100% sure of it, I could testify in a court of law, and (am) 100% sure that I saw six euros on the meter itself.”
The person said they spoke to another taxi driver about the experience and the driver told them they were aware of another driver in the area overcharging passengers.
“If you want to catch him, I suggest that you look like a traveller (carry a backpack) and ask to be taken to a B&B or hotel,” the complainant wrote.
Outcome: The driver was interviewed and a fixed payment notice was issued for failing to print and offer a receipt.
‘He claimed he didn’t have any petrol’
In another complaint, a person wrote: “As myself and my friends got into the taxi on Sunday night the driver asked us where we were going to, the driver said he wasn’t sure if he would be going that way.
“After hearing this I questioned what he meant at which point he then said he didn’t know where it was we wished to go – which I can only assume was a lie as we were asking to go to one of the busiest roads in the area. Regardless, I explained where it was and said I would direct him as needed.
At this point he then began to claim that he did not have any petrol and that’s why he would not bring us, which again was nonsense as the nearest petrol station in the area is located on the way to where we were going.
“We offered to wait while he filled up if necessary, to which he repeatedly refused and simply pulled in, refused to drive and told us to get out of the car. When we did get out he then proceeded to drive in the opposite direction to the nearest petrol stations. I can only assume in search of a more expensive fare.”
Outcome: The driver was interviewed and issued with a caution.
Regulation of the Small Public Service Vehicle (SPSV) industry is provided for in the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.
Since 2013, the NTA has provided an online facility for taxi users to make a compliment or complaint about a particular journey or driver.
All complaints are reviewed by a dedicated unit within the NTA. Valid complaints are referred either to a member of the authority’s compliance team or, if the complaint relates to an issue not within the remit of the NTA to investigate, the complainant is referred to the relevant investigating authority, such as An Garda Síochána.
Complaints are not solely related to taxi drivers, but may apply to the driver or licence holder of any SPSV.